Ethical Entrepreneurship and Social Change

On Dec. 11, Andreas Widmer, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and director of the Carlyse Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at the Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business and Economics, spoke to the junior class about how human dignity and ethics inform entrepreneurship and business practices.

Widmer is a co-founder of The SEVEN Fund, a philanthropic organization promoting enterprise solutions to poverty, and a seasoned business executive with experience in high-tech, international business strategy, consulting and economic development. He is the author of The Pope & The CEO: Pope Saint John Paul II’s Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard, a book exploring leadership lessons that he learned serving as a Swiss Guard and protecting Pope John Paul II and refined during his career as a successful business executive. Writing about the connections among entrepreneurship, economic development and spirituality, Widmer contributed two chapters to the book In the River They Swim: Essays from Around the World on Enterprise Solutions to Poverty. He holds two business degrees from Switzerland, a bachelor’s degree in international business from Merrimack College and a master’s degree in ministry from St. John’s Seminary in Boston.
Widmer spoke to students about how human dignity and ethics inform business practice and how his leadership style and character were influenced by his time in Rome. He began by sharing his background in military service and his tenure as a Pontifical Swiss Guard from 1986-1988, protecting Pope John Paul II. Initially, his guard service wasn’t about faith. However, then he met John Paul II, and the Pope changed his life. After telling John Paul II he was feeling sad and lonely, the Pope responded, “I’m glad you’re here. I’m going to pray for you.” Through his example of holiness, Widmer grew in faith and confidence. The Pope, however, would not accept his adoration – he reminded him that what Widmer really adored was what the John Paul II had: a relationship with Jesus Christ.
He shared how spending time in the presence of Pope John Paul II led to his eventual position as director of a principled entrepreneurial program dedicated to promoting enterprise solutions to poverty, enriching and renewing the practice of entrepreneurship through research and putting the principles of Catholic social teaching into action. One of the most significant lessons he learned from his time with the Pope was the concept that human beings are made in the image of God the Creator. He stated that each of us is made in the image of God, and when we are creative, we reflect that image. Just as God is Creator, we are creators, too. Widmer used this knowledge to transform his thinking about humanity, business and poverty.
Widmer explained that when we work and create something new from nothing, we are imitating God and becoming fully the persons we are meant to be. Money is one way to measure value, and it comes from business – where a person makes something of higher value to others. Thus, in order for people to flourish, they must work. We must bring the person into the system and allow them to work with us to lift up communities. “Poverty is not about how much money you have; poverty occurs when people are excluded from networks of productivity and exchange,” Widmer said. When people are working and being creative, they prosper. He concluded that poverty is solved by allowing people the opportunity to become who they are – creative persons made in His image.